Philosophy of The Big Society

David Cameron gets to be God!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Call for new laws to protect the elderly

"Next week the Government is expected to publish plans to improve the care of people suffering from dementia, which will be followed by guidance clamping down on the use of dangerous antipsychotic drugs to sedate patients with conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

The medication, which could increase the risk of premature death, is prescribed to control agitation, delusions, sleep disturbance and aggression, but is not licensed to treat Alzheimer's."

Call for new laws to protect elderly from abuse
Charities are calling for new laws to protect the elderly as a study shows that more than 300,000 cases of abuse go undetected each year.

By Laura Donnelly, Health Correspondent
Last Updated: 4:46PM GMT 31 Jan 2009

More than 50 charities, backed by England's social care watchdog, are urging the Government to put abuse of the elderly on the same legal footing as child abuse, with the NHS, councils and the police obliged to investigate any threat reported.

The submission to ministers comes ahead of a major study which will say next week that more than 90 per cent of elderly people who suffer abuse go unnoticed by social services.

The report, by the charity Action on Elder Abuse, will estimate that more than 300,000 elderly people suffer mistreatment at the hands of carers, nurses, or relatives each year, without authorities ever stepping in.

Even this number is likely to be an underestimate, as it excludes people with dementia and those in residential homes.

The moves come as families across the country are struggling to find care home places for elderly relatives due to the recession increasing pressures on the social care system.

Councils facing a financial squeeze as a consequence of the downturn are restricting funded places to those with the most desperate needs, while those paying for their own care are finding it increasingly unaffordable, according to Dame Denise Platt, chairman of the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), England's social care watchdog.

She said she fears councils may further reduce the number of places they fund when they set their new budgets for April.

At the same time, owners of private care homes are facing rising bills, and may face a choice between putting up their prices or going bust.

Cases of abuse of the elderly uncovered by inspectors include care homes where residents were routinely tied to their beds and chairs, locked up or dragged around by their hair.

Other residents, many of whom had dementia, have been refused food and denied trips to the lavatory in punishment for "bad behaviour".

Investigations have revealed a woman of 85 who had her fingernails ripped off by a care worker, a 78-year-old covered in cigarette burns, and a number of thefts of pensions by care staff paid to look after the elderly.

Government research suggests that 340,000 pensioners suffer some form of physical, financial or emotional abuse each year.

Action on Elder Abuse investigated local authority records and found that fewer than a tenth of that number of cases are ever investigated by social services.

The charity, together with the Alzheimer's Society, Age Concern, Mencap, and the Commission for Social Care Inspection, is calling for laws to be introduced which would place a duty on all agencies which work with vulnerable adults to log and investigate reports of abuse – either in residential care or in family homes – and to share information with other agencies.

Currently, different bodies set their own rules about how to protect the frail elderly, and disabled, from harm.

The charities made the plea as part of submissions to a Government consultation on the protection of vulnerable adults, which closed yesterday.

Gary Fitzgerald, chief executive of Action on Elder Abuse, said: "We are simply not doing enough to protect old people facing abuse, and we are challenging the Government to listen and to introduce safeguards that make this a priority."

Neil Hunt of the Alzheimer's Society added: "We need to fight any abuse of people with dementia and that means putting systems in place early to avoid putting them at risk."

In July, a care worker was found guilty of abusing five elderly residents of Manor Care Home in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

Nina Strange, 48, of Heanor, Derbyshire, was sentenced to 200 hours community work after a court heard how she hit an 88-year-old wheelchair-bound woman across the back of the head, twice hit an 81-year-old man on the head and pulled the hair of an 81-year-old woman as she put her to bed.

Next week the Government is expected to publish plans to improve the care of people suffering from dementia, which will be followed by guidance clamping down on the use of dangerous antipsychotic drugs to sedate patients with conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

The medication, which could increase the risk of premature death, is prescribed to control agitation, delusions, sleep disturbance and aggression, but is not licensed to treat Alzheimer's.

A parliamentary investigation has already warned that too many care-home staff are using the drugs to control the behaviour of difficult patients with dementia.

Latest figures from the CSCI show that despite a rapidly-ageing population, the number of pensioners receiving council-funded home help has fallen by 40,000 in four years, while growth in the number of people given residential care slowed.

Almost 72 per cent of councils will already only fund care for people whose needs are assessed as "substantial", a rise from 53 per cent in two years, CSCI said.

Dame Denise said services for the most vulnerable must not be targeted for further cuts.

She said: "Many councils facing an increase in the number of older and disabled people and in the costs of care have responded by raising the threshold people have to pass before they are entitled to council help. Increasingly, people are having to pay for their own care, or relay on help from relatives, friends, neighbours or voluntary organisations.

"The current economic downturn must not deflect us from the continuing need to provide vital care services to growing numbers of disabled and older people."

The Department of Health is preparing a green paper which will examine how to fund a £6 billion funding gap predicted in care of the elderly within two decades.

Phil Hope, the social care minister, said changes to the system should ensure more practical help and support for those who did not get their care funded by the state, under a "universal assessment" entitlement for all.

He said: "One of the things I feel very strongly about is that everybody, whether they are self-funding or not, should have their needs properly assessed and be given some advice and information about how those needs will be met.

"No-one should be turned away."


  1. Care for elderly is shocking. I am glad I am not in a position where I would have to put someone close to me into the hands of these people.
    Old people rarely get the dignity they deserve. Another case of the vulnerable people in society being left in dire straits.
    I'm sure there are good places and workers as well but this things shouldn;t be happening to people who through no fault of their own can;t stick up for themselves.

  2. Bloody hell, therer'e requests for new laws simply so folk get decent care?! Now you're just raising my blood pressure!

  3. Indeed Lareve

    People are drowning and actually there are those putting their feet on their heads to quicken the process.


    My blood pressure is through the ceiling anyway.

    The problem with laws is..who is actually going to implement them? Are they going to have police monitoring 24/7? If so then the size of the British police force will be enormous. 1:1 observation!!!!

    Your comment actually raised something pretty relevant and that is that you can't make people (or services) for that matter care. Believe me, I have tried!!!

    And when you do try, you are treated like some protagonist rather than actually being seen as someone who is trying to get the care that someone else needs.

    My father is clearly, to all who bother to see him, in pretty constant states of distress. i think it is actually cruel that he is left.

    If my friend and I hadn't ventured out in the snow today, he wouldn't have any food for the weekend or likely see anyone else.

    MH staff were advised to go home, as soon as they got to work. Granted mitigating circumstances but my Dad still has to eat and I am grateful my friend offered to take me to the shops. Maybe putting us both as risk, but someone had to do it.

    As for the underlying reasons why people are so badly neglected. Perhaps others could share their views.

    My view is "out of sight - out of mind"

  4. As you eloquently describe, I too think it's a mix of "out of sight - out of mind" and a lack of folk able to shout out and advocate for them (in a way that's both heard then acted upon).

  5. Hi again Shrink

    Lack of folk advocating for them...yep, massive one that and, for sure, if people are advocating for others and not being listened to that makes it all seem rather futile.

    If people have a MH Act Assessment carried out on them, do they automatically get an advocate? I think that was discussed on your blog a while back. I can't remember what the outcome was.

    Am wondering this because am thinking that seeking a MH Act Assessment for my father might be the only way to get him further care that he needs. However, and as always, I want his NEEDS to be paramount in regards to that.

    I also think I need an advocate at present, the responsibility for his care is continually coming back to me and I am not in a position to provide what he needs.
    Ho hum.